#AW80Books: Struggling with Ismail Kadare’s ‘The Fall of the Stone City’

I feel a bit of a fraud writing about The Fall of the Stone City as it was one of those thankfully rare experiences which didn’t go at all well. Try as I might, I could not find a footing in Kadare’s enigmatic tale, which begins as a straightforward description of the German invasion of the Albanian city of Gjirokaster in 1943 in the wake of Italy’s withdrawal from the region. A dinner follows, in which Dr Gurameto has invited the invading German commander to his home, as they had been great friends at university, many years before.

The dinner leads to Albanian hostages being released, and Dr Gurameto is heralded as a hero. Later, with the city now under a communist regime, he is seen instead as a collaborator and faces torture and the threat of death. What felt like concrete story-telling at the beginning began to turn to shifting sands, and I couldn’t tell reality from dream. I had put this down to my having read Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage novel The Tunnel beforehand, and was still feeling deeply affected by that, and not yet ready to vacate Miriam Henderson’s head. However, rereading Miss Quickly’s review of the book on her blog The Blue Bore, it would seem I’m not alone in finding the novel hard to access.


Ismail Kadare

However, it did provide some useful googling of Albania, and I enjoyed my armchair travels round an area that I previously didn’t know much about. Of the other reviews I’ve seen, most people seem to rate Kadare’s earlier novels as his best work. So when I make a return visit to his work I shall bear that in mind!

***Stop Press***  I’ve just read another review of this by Steve over at Book to the Future, and he’s done a proper job – highly  recommended!


Gjirokaster, Albania. Image from here

Gjirokaster's oldtown from the castle / Gjirokaster ovarosa a varbol

Gjirokaster’s oldtown. Image from here